It’s hard to understand why some people believe non-alcoholic drugs don’t have a place in society. The fact of the matter is people have been using drugs for centuries and there is no foreseeable future where this isn’t the case.
It was only till recently, under Nixon, that lots of people began to see illegal drugs as a problem and condemn such drug usage. This was the beginning of America’s immodest attempt to end drug use nationwide.
For those who know about this ‘war on drugs’ are probably aware of its socio-political ramifications that greatly increased the number of minority incarcerations. For those who don’t, I would recommend Netflix’s “13” for a brief insight on how drug laws can be used to target African-American communities.
But let’s pretend for a moment that drug legislation doesn’t target minorities. Even if this were the case, the ‘War on Drugs’ would still be a disaster because it completely ignores the human element involved in taking drugs.
And by human element I mean the reasons why so many of us use drugs, which can, I believe, be broken into two major categories. One, because we have comfortable lives but still enjoy altering our brain every now and then for entertainment. And two, some of us are destitute, whether it be for mental or fiscal reasons, and seek an answer in drugs.
In both cases, the person taking the drugs aims at one thing: to improve their current situation. This is why I can never support incarcerating drug users, who more often than not, just want to enjoy life.
Therefore, if America truly wanted to end drug use it should focus on why people take drugs in the first place and move from there. If people take drugs to seemingly improve their lives, then the solution should be to improve lives, not ruin them by putting people in jail/prison.
This current approach of incarceration is also flawed because there isn’t a finite number of dealers and users out there. As if these people were some exotic animal species that could go extinct and by removing them they would cease to exist.
However, as long as humans are around, drugs will also be present. If you remove a drug dealer someone will take their place, and anyone is susceptible to feel the need of drugs. There just isn’t a way to stop drug use, which is exactly why we shouldn’t try.
What we should be doing is trying to stop drug abuse, which is a medical problem. Because while there are some drugs that are inherently dangerous, most drugs can be used responsibly without causing any harm to anyone besides the user.
Now, other than overall improving lives of people, which would solve a lot of problems, there are other ways to approach the specific issue of drugs. Where changes primarily to occur is drug legislation, drug education, and drug research.
Oregon’s plan to decriminalize small amounts of drugs is an excellent start. It attempts to treat hard drug use as a medical condition and move away from the mindset the ‘war on drugs’ popularized.
Now, this isn’t perfect, but for a state to recognize that drug users are not bad people who deserve severe jail time is a huge step in the right direction. Ideally, time will show that drug overdose and abuse will go down as a result and other states take up similar policies.
Then, of course, there is the atrocity that is drug education. Trying to suppress drug use completely is a huge mistake, especially when taught to teenagers who often tend to rebel.
Also, plenty of the facts about drugs are ignored, for example, what smoking marijuana does that make people enjoy it. If anyone does end up smoking weed and finds out they enjoy it, they could easily assume that what they’ve been told about other drugs is also incorrect and move on to more serious and harmful drugs.
Drug education should give honest facts, not hide the benefits of drugs. It should advocate safe use and should assume that most people in their lives will use drugs. It should also not create a stigma against people addicted to drugs but instead preach how we can help people who become reliant on drugs.
And finally, our research on drugs needs a total revision. Research was stopped after Nixon began the ‘war and drugs’ which is a disgrace in the name of progress. We have the technology and money to do the research, and there are plenty of reasons why we should research.
One is that there are literal benefits to some drugs. It’s shocking that we still don’t know everything there is to know about medical marijuana even though it has been proven to help certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy.
Even drugs such as psychedelics have potential to cure mental diseases. Taking them rids one’s sense of ego and opens pathways in the brain for new thought. If done properly, therapy could be issued with the use of drugs and change someone’s perception of the world, potentially curing things such as depression.
Also, as I have been trying to emphasize, taking drugs is human. If we have a desire to alter our brains through drugs, not researching drugs is denying research on the psychology of humans. So even if some drugs don’t have benefits, it’s still important to find out what exactly these do the brain and why people find comfort in them.
Humans are constantly seeking answers to our problems. Maybe in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need drugs but that isn’t the case. Instead, we’re left in this world fumbling for meaning and happiness. And it’s about time we consider that drugs could help us in this search for meaning and happiness.